Letter to My Younger Self: Russ Hutchinson, Firmwide Strategy, New York

07 APR 2021

Russ Hutchinson, the firm’s chief strategy officer, shares advice he wishes he had received earlier in his career. 


This coming summer will change your life in the best way possible. The bad news is that you won’t return to Boston Consulting Group (and you’ll have to pay them back for sponsoring your MBA). The great news is that it will be more than worth it since you will chase your dream career in financial institutions. You’ll work with industry leaders and make lifelong friends. They will shape you into a leader at the firm.

You’ve never been someone to shy away from working hard and that will not change. The many jobs you had when growing up outside of Toronto – as a warehouse worker, telemarketer and then later running your own driveway repair business – will help you more than you can imagine. Don’t forget the value of effort, resilience and most importantly, finding creative solutions to problems. There’s no substitute for the foundation that you’ll acquire throughout those early roles and it will shape how you process the world around you. 

1. Bet on yourself. When you joined the firm to pursue a career in investment banking, you gave up a larger starting salary in consulting and had to pay back the cost of your sponsored MBA. This bet led to a long and exciting career at Goldman Sachs, most recently as the head of FIG M&A in IBD and now as the chief strategy officer. Betting on yourself is always the first and most important step to success.

2. Important lessons are often in plain sight. Your first job as a telemarketer, selling carpet cleaning services, was in fact a prep course in sales and client service. It taught you several important lessons – including learning to be prepared, track the numbers and ask for the sale. You made the most out of every call by having thoughtful responses to the most common objections. You tracked the number of calls you made versus sales so you had the data to avoid emotional traps and stay focused on the things that matter most for making sales. And you asked for the sale confident that your prospect wants their carpets cleaned (or they would have hung up). Important lessons like this are often in plain sight, each and every day. It’s up to you to find them.

3. Learn to listen. Clients sometimes come up with wacky ideas and it is too easy to be dismissive. Early in your career, Celeste Guth showed you how to listen; ask questions to understand your client’s underlying problems and their goals. Celeste knew how to learn from her clients and then work with them to shape an idea rather than dismiss it. This philosophy will serve you well, and particularly when helping clients navigate tough storms like the global financial crisis. 

4. Make time to reflect. Early on in your career, when you are working hard to get materials out on a deadline, it may often feel like there isn’t time to pause. But make no mistake – it will be the most important thing you do. Being the closest person to the details means you are incredibly well positioned to ask, “What is this data telling me?” It will be the first question asked by the reader (whether a manager or a client). So, taking the time to reflect and develop a view is table stakes.